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Fasten Your Seatbelts, Expect Turbulence

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Guys, I hate to be THAT guy, but our astounding success and dominant run? It's probably going to end. Soon. The Rapids are in for a bumpy ride in June and July.

Are we, like Doyle, due for a tumble?
Are we, like Doyle, due for a tumble?
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports


Hi. You might know me as 'Captain Optimism' here at Burgundy Wave. When everyone else was very negative about Pablo Mastroeni, I was saying 'wait, wait, let him learn and grow.' When my fellow esteemed writers were calling for pitchforks and torches, I was only mildly petrified that the Rapids plans would not amount to success.

That said, guys, we're flying too close to the sun, and the mighty wings of Icarus are starting to drip like a cheap candle. I say that for a few reasons.

First, we won our last game, against the Seattle Sounders on May 22nd, on a wing and a prayer. We were out shot and out played. Only the poor shooting of Andrea Ivanschitz and Jordan Morris kept us in the game. Sure, we're allowed a clunker now and again, even in a good season. But the Rapids looked lethargic for long stretches, especially in the first half, especially our big name stars. It was worrisome. It also wasn't an isolated incident. The Rapids have won or tied a fair number of games where they were outplayed by their opponents, but seemed to get a goal anyways. Our ties against DC United and Montreal Impact, and our win at Sporting KC were manifest examples of that.

Second, we'll spend the next month without Irish International Kevin Doyle and Albanian International Shkelzen Gashi, who will be away at Euro 2016, and USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones. We also are still without little-engine-that-can Marco Pappa, who might be back in a week or two, but might not. Without those guys, things might be rough.

Third, those bench players available to fill in haven't gotten much run this season. This is the closest iteration of the lineup I'd expect in the next four matches.

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It's a starting XI with some serious concerns: Powers is rusty; Serna and Solignac have a tendency to completely disappear. Badji tends to be best when opposing teams forget he's there because they're so worried about Jones, Gashi, or Pappa.

Also, starting that bunch leaves the 'Pids with a bench of Eric Miller, Marlon Hairston, Conor Doyle, Dennis Castillo, and now Caleb Calvert; not deep, not experienced, and not much history of offense from those blokes.

That's not to say they can't step in and shine: it's just a tall order in a league that keeps getting better every year.

Sure, other MLS teams are losing talented players - SKC will be without Besler and Zusi; the Galaxy will be without Zardes and Keane. But it's my opinion - and one shared by a lot of the BWave Commentariat (yes, I read the comments) - that the drop-off from our first team to our reserve is quite steep.

Fourth, our upcoming schedule includes the best team in the Eastern Conference (Philadelphia Union), a murderers row of Western Conference teams clicking on all cylinders ( LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps, FC Dallas), and a slew of hungry underachievers eager to prove they aren't the train wreck they have been this far (Sporting KC, Portland Timbers). It might be a rough stretch.

All that said, there are some reasons for optimism. The Rapids are historically pretty decent in June-July.

Year W T L
2013: June-July 4 3 3
2013: Aug-Sept-Oct 5 2 4
2014: June-July 3 3 3
2014: Aug-Sept-Oct 1 2 11
2015: June-July 3 2 2
2015: Aug-Sept-Oct 3 1 9

As you can see, the fall off these past two years occurs after July. The Rapids currently sit on 27 points. Last year, it took 51 points to make the playoffs. So they need roughly 24 points from 21 matches. Totally do-able. If they can just go 6-6-9 the rest of the way, they'll (probably) be ok. Lets look at the schedule for the next eight games and see where we might be at afterwards.

May 28 - vs Philadelphia

What's Hopeful-

Philadelphia have been the other MLS surprise, leading the East with a 5-4-3 (WTL) record. So you could argue they, too, have over performed and are due to regress to the mean. They also play in an Eastern Conference that, based on their records, is certainly softer than the West.  All three of Philly's losses came on the road. Finally, they'll be without GK Andre Blake, who will be at Copa America with Jamaica.

What's Worrisome-

CJ Sapong is electric. Tranquilo Barnetta and Chris Pontius are in-form. Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, and Ken Tribbett are young and fabulous. Philly are riding a six-game unbeaten streak.

My prediction - Rapids Loss.

June 18 - vs Chicago

What's Hopeful-

Fire BAAAAD!!! (2-4-5 WLT).

On road, Fire VERY BAAAAD!!! (0-2-3).

Fire offense VERY VERY BAAAAD!!! (Only 9 goals through 12 games).

Fire midfield not good. VERY BAAAAD!!! (They're starting Rapids castoff Nick Labrocca and an MLS journeyman named Michael Stephens with 121 games played - mostly off the bench - and just 2 goals.)

What's Worrisome-

Their backline is young and talented, with Johann Kappelhof and Brandon Vincent. One reason they've been bad is David Accam's been hurt. He's healthy now, and can take over a game by himself.

My Prediction - Rapids Win. A loss here is not ok.

June 22 - at LA Galaxy

What's Hopeful -

The Galaxy will also be hit hard by Copa America and Euro 2016, so they'll have to find solid replacements for Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Keane up top. The Rapids have matched up well with LA in their last three meetings: with a win, a loss, and a draw. The Galaxy have a starting GK, Dan Kennedy, who's been bad, and a backup, Brian Rowe, who can't seem to shake his backup label no matter how well he does.

What's Worrisome -

LA have a bunch of Europeans that are still great players, but not so-great in that their countries called did not them in , and Holland didn't qualify even: Jelle Van Damme, Nigel De Jong, Ashley Cole and Stephen Gerrard. Giovani Dos Santos decided not to join Mexico, so he'll be in Carson for this game too. Oy. LA often start a little slow and put on the gas when the playoffs start becoming visible over the horizon - and right now they sit in 5th in the Western Conference. LA lead the league in goals with 25. With the Rapids as the best team in MLS, LA will certainly come in trying to prove something.

My Prediction - Rapids Loss. Not getting murdered by 2+ goals should be considered a moral victory.

July 4 vs Portland Timbers

What's Hopeful -

The Timbers are 0-2-4 on the road this season, and are tied for last in MLS in Goals Allowed, with 24. Nat Borchers has looked not-that-good. On offense, the games when Darlington Nagbe was out , the Timbers looked listless. Lucas Melano hasn't exploded for this team like folks thought he would. The Rapids should have Jermaine Jones back from Copa America, which ends June 26 . The Rapids will likely have Gashi and Doyle back, assuming Albania and Ireland don't make it to the Euro Quarterfinals on June 30-July 3. The Rapids will certainly have new GK Tim Howard for his debut game in front of a sold out crowd.

What's Worrisome -

Portland will have Darlington Nagbe back. Portland are the defending MLS Cup champs, and are sitting below the red line for the playoffs. They should be playing with some urgency soon. They also may be making some moves during the transfer window, and might debut one of those fancy new signings on this day.

Prediction - Tie.

July 9 - at Vancouver Whitecaps

What's Hopeful-

Vancouver's always the cool-guy pick to be atop the Western Conference, but they've constantly disappointed, sitting fourth in the conference with a 6-2-6 record. The defense is very leaky: they've surrendered 3+ goals five times this season so far. Kendall Waston has four yellows and two reds to date - run at him and you can just count on earning a set piece, eventually. Octavio Rivero hasn't provided goals like usual. Pa Modu Kah has become a statue.

What's Worrisome-

Someone has to contain Kekutah Manneh. Pedro Morales and Christian Bolanos are a devastating midfield tandem. This team looks like they've underperformed.

Prediction - Rapids Loss.

July 16 vs. Sporting Kansas City

What's Hopeful-

We've got SKC's number. In the past two seasons, we have 4 wins and only 1 loss against them. This season, SKC are bad.

What's Worrisome -

This team has Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, and Brad Davis. They just need to get their act together and they can bounce back.

Prediction - Rapids loss. We got one deserved win this year against SKC, one lucky win. That door can go both ways.

July 23 vs FC Dallas

What's Hopeful-

Dallas is meeting us on the road, and their road record to date is shaky - 3 wins, 4 losses.

What's Worrisome -

Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo are unholy marauding terrors in the night.

Prediction - Tie.

July 30 at NYCFC

What's Hopeful-

NYC just got bludgeoned to death by NYRB, predominantly on set pieces, and generally look weak there. The Rapids are currently second in MLS on set piece goals.

What's Worrisome -

Many teams this year have struggled to adjust to playing in the tight space of Yankee Stadium, and it produces a lot of ties; 4 in 7 matches. It's the Rapids' first trip to the Bronx, so expect the Rapids to struggle a little.

Prediction - Tie.

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So overall, I expect a 1-3-4 (WTL) over these next eight games, yielding 6 points and putting the Rapids at 33 points with 13 matches to go. That'd be tough, but the team would still be very much in the playoff picture. It's also a pretty pessimistic read, and tells you that getting 8 points or better from 8 games would leave the team in a very strong place for the playoff push.

What do you think, folks? Am I harshing your buzz? Are we going to keep the fortress locked down, tear up these teams on the road, and be spitting distance from the playoffs at the start of August? Let me know in the comments.